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What are the privacy implications of including a section in a CV listing information about students that one has supervised, e.g.:

PhD supervision

Jane Doe. Awesome thesis title (2020).

John Smith. Another awesome thesis title (2018). Received the Northwest State University Best Thesis prize.

Does the answer change for other supervision contexts, e.g. postdocs, masters students or undergraduate summer projects? I am interested in both the legal and the moral dimension (e.g. "You can do this, but you probably shouldn't").

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    In many fields the supervisor will likely be a coauthor on at least some of the student's papers, leaving a highly visible public trail for anyone interested to follow. That said, asking the student's opinions might be nice (and catching up with them even nicer). Personally, I don't care at all.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 2 '21 at 17:09
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    Indeed, it's a trivial amount of energy (and perhaps improves relationships a nontrivial amount) to simply ask supervisees if they consent to being listed. Still, the question in the OP stands as written. Dec 3 '21 at 2:39
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    Why would this be any different from citing someone else's work in a paper?
    – Joe
    Dec 3 '21 at 12:52
  • How about students who are submitting/about to submit/not finished yet? There could be an issue with disclosing either their title or expected graduation date.
    – smci
    Dec 4 '21 at 0:22
45

Since theses are published, and since at all universities I know of the thesis contains both the title, the year, and a list of the names of the student's supervisor and committee members, it is already public information that you are the supervisor of a student. As such, there should be no legal implications to you repeating what is already public.

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    I think this may be very US-specific? I know my UK (Oxford) thesis had a title and a date of submission, that my supervisor had a mention in the acknowledgements, and the concept of "committee members" is totally alien here. The thesis as such is not published. I think it may be possible to find a published university record of my thesis examiners, but nothing linking me to my supervisor. Dec 3 '21 at 9:52
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    @erstwhileeditor These days many UK theses are uploaded to the British Library's Ethos service. The record for mine display's my supervisor's name without the need to open the PDF.
    – Chris H
    Dec 3 '21 at 10:18
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    The comments are correct. Supervisor's name is not at all public information. But you can list your students in your CV just like they list you. Dec 3 '21 at 16:05
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    @erstwhileeditor Surely producing the library copy of the thesis qualifies as publishing it? Of course when we usually use the term we mean making it more widely available through a publisher, but producing the document and lodging it in an academic library seems to fit the term "published" in a more restricted sense.
    – dbmag9
    Dec 5 '21 at 18:31
  • @dbmag9 Up to a point, although there are undoubtedly embargoed theses deposited in university libraries. I think my own university would distinguish between "publishing" and "depositing in the Library". Dec 6 '21 at 7:42
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I can't and shouldn't provide legal advice, especially because what is legal and not is highly dependent on jurisdiction. I'd recommend consulting with university administration if there is any gray area or uncertainty.

For the US, the most applicable federal law is FERPA. FERPA permits disclosure of "directory information" to anyone; my understanding is that it is a school's job to inform students what they consider to be "directory information". My own institution has a page here:

https://registrar.wisc.edu/ferpa-directory/

Some of those items include (selected those most relevant to this question and not comprehensive):

Name

Major field(s) of study, degree sought, school/college, and student type (e.g., undergraduate)

Enrollment status, including academic level (e.g., sophomore), full- or part-time status, and credit load

Dates of attendance

Total cumulative credits

Expected graduation date/term, and intent to participate in commencement

Degrees, honors and awards received (type and date/term granted)

Participation in officially recognized activities and athletics

Based on this list, I'd consider a graduate student's name, program, and advisor to be "directory information". Their thesis is certainly an officially recognized activity, and their graduation status including an expected graduation for students not yet finished is also explicitly listed. My interpretation, therefore, is that there is no problem in sharing this information in a CV.

Further, I think advisors should definitely be proud of their students and should credit their students for their achievements. I see no moral imperative against including this sort of thing in a CV. It's also common practice in my field for advisors giving research talks to name their lab personnel, including students, in all of their talks. Published papers and theses are part of the academic record and there is no reason to hide them.

I'd recommend care in consistently representing the work of different students, and consider carefully any requests to omit particular information at a student's request, but I do not see a need to get any prior permission to list advised students in a CV.

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    Man, some of those seem a little much (address?) Dec 2 '21 at 17:37
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    @AzorAhai-him- Yeah, that's one that seems a bit outdated, though addresses are pretty commonly found in public records they are omitted from others. I can remember when most adults had their phone number and address published in a book delivered unrequested to everyone's door, though.
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 2 '21 at 18:24
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    @AzorAhai-him- and BryanKrause And yet somehow, I always find something to put in the "address" field of a "PHDTHESIS" record in my BibTeX database (usually the name of the academic department where the student carried out the research). Dec 2 '21 at 22:20
  • @DanielHatton well, yeah, that seems appropriate. There's no need for a university to ever publish a student's address. Dec 2 '21 at 22:21
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If you only list things that are a matter of public record there should be no issues at all. Presumably this is true for their dissertation titles and your advisory relationship. Universities regularly publish such things.

If you go beyond that, giving any personal information, for example, then you need to ask each person.

And I'd avoid listing students who are still in process and haven't completed unless you get their permission.

7

Here’s a slightly different perspective: in CVs I submit to a particular granting agency, I must report the name of students I claim to have supervised. I am asked to obtain permission from the students to disclose their name as part of the application process (if student does not give permission, I can include details in some specific way - not sure as this has never happened to me that a student refused permission).

Clearly this was put in place because of past abuse: it’s easy (maliciously or not) to overcount the number of students supervised if the students are nameless, but harder if you need to supply a name to each supervised student.

I have seen too many CVs where people claim to have supervised “hundreds of students” (never names) and I am now in the habit of openly challenging such assertions in my comments to grants I myself review.

As a result, I see the inclusion of student names on a CVs as something positive. I do let students know their name appears on CV-type documents.

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    Adding titles of their works would be better. You could count that. And you can also see the spectrum. If an advisor hands out the same work or just with small variations to multiple students, that should be considered.
    – usr1234567
    Dec 3 '21 at 9:13
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    Where/what agencies is this? In the US, I don't think I have ever been asked to get permission from students/postdocs when I am asked to list them.
    – Kimball
    Dec 4 '21 at 13:34
  • @Kimball NSERC is one. Dec 4 '21 at 16:12
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Disclaimer: This answer comes with the bias of a euro-centric perspective:

TLDR: Not all theses or even summer internships are publicly available and the answer also has privacy implications for the recipient.

As suggested by @erstwhile editor in a comment to another answer, not all theses get published. IMHO, it is more likely for PhD theses to be published online than bachelor theses or even the reports of summer internships. Therefore, disclosing this information may come with an inherent risk.

I would like to add another perspective on this topic. This question does not only include the owner of the CV and the listed student(s), but also the receiving person/agency. You should be aware on whether the recipient wants this information in the first place. It is one thing, if the recipient specifically asked for names (& possibly permissions) to be listed (as explained in @ZeroTheHero answer). Yet, it is a completely different question if the recipient did not. In this case, you are basically passing along the legal & moral hassles of possessing this information onto them, which they either may not like or, worse, not even be allowed to handle. If this is the case, they may delete this information (or the full document) to avoid any legal hassle. This in turn may have negative consequences on your end like a missed deadline. Please, be aware that this represents a worst-case scenario only. (While you may be aware that you have permission to include the students' names, the recipient may not necessarily be aware of that.)

Therefore, if somebody wants a CV from you, why not ask about any potential preferences regarding style, information included & the like. Since the recipient very likely gets a decent number of CVs, they like them in a standardized format anyway.

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  • Is this euro centric? In Italy master and PhD thesis are discussed in public, the same happens in Austria and France. In other countries thesis are published as books. Does not this indicate that supervisor/supervised names are in public domain?
    – Alchimista
    Dec 4 '21 at 12:55
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    "euro centric" was referring mainly on to the perspective on data-protection, not publishing procedures, I could have been more explicit about that.
    – VoodooCode
    Dec 4 '21 at 13:12
  • On the publishing, I have seen that theses are often published with the library of the local university (w/o an online version); the students have to provide publication rights to the library. Therefore, I'd assume the library has the rights to the thesis. Regarding the public defense, this is a good argument (excluding internships). Yet, during Covid many defenses have been online. While theoretically accessible, it is hard to access them without a link. Yet, IANAL and I'm not exactly sure under which conditions information passes into the public domain.
    – VoodooCode
    Dec 4 '21 at 13:31
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I would not add a name of a student I supervised. It does not add anything to your CV. You are including personal data of third persons and considering a weighing of interests this is not justified (IMHO).
The one exception I can think of, is if they made a stellar carrier and are well-known in their field or even won a prestigious award.

If you want to show the actual number of supervised works, list the titles. That would show what kind of work was done and the spectrum of the topics you supervised.

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    I think it more proper to list them all than to single out anyone.
    – Buffy
    Dec 3 '21 at 12:05
  • Single out names or supervised works? No names would be fine to me. Skipping works not so much. I have to confess, it is a western European / non-UK perspective.
    – usr1234567
    Dec 3 '21 at 12:42

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